The French Air Force (Armée de l’Air) is expanding part of its Rafale fleet in a way that this spearhead of French air power no longer needs radar to execute its essential operations.
On 15 September 2015 the two Rafales took of from Airbase 118 Mont-de-Marsan for a experimental patrol and in-flight refuelling with a Boeing C.135 tanker. The Rafale C (“Chasseur”, which means fighter in French) and Rafale B (“Biplace” (two-seat)) are the first two equipped with new military satellite communications (SatCom System) hard- and software. The aircraft from l’Escadron de Chasse et d’Expérimentations (ECE) 5/330 “Côte d’Argent” (or Fighter and Test Squadron) were being followed on the ground during the entire 3.5 hour flight to to Lajes on the Azores island by the new Centre d’Expertise Aérienne Militaire (CEAM; Military Aviation Expertise Centre).
According to the French Air Force the new SatCom System data links open up “unprecedented prospects” for future Rafale deployments, since the jets no longer need either radar or radio communication to fly to their designated ops or target areas. Technically they could hit the North or South Pole if necessary – and provided there is enough full available of course.
France hopes that the new CEAM will help develop a new Air Warfare Center that will increase the quality of the Armée de l’Air by further integrating doctrine, equipment and tactical expertise. The new Rafale capabilities are somewhat similar like Link 16, but don’t need other aircraft for sharing the situational picture. The SatCom System is installed on for example Royal Norwegian Air Force jets having to operate in the Arctic far from the main land, but fighter jets of most other nations do not have the option.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, based on source information provided by the Centre d’Expertise Aérienne Militaire
Featured image: A French Air Force Dassault Rafale B (Image © Dennis Spronk)